The Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill has passed its third reading. The bill will increase paid parental leave to 22 weeks from 1 July 2018, with a further increase to 26 weeks from 1 July 2020.
It was passed unanimously in Parliament last week.
The new law allows primary carer leave to be taken in one continuous period not exceeding 22 weeks (up from 18 weeks), with a female employee carer entitled to take at least 16 weeks (up from 12 weeks) of her primary carer leave after the expected date of delivery, from 1 July 2018.
The Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, Iain Lees-Galloway, says the bill fulfils a Government commitment to giving children the very best start in life.
“Extending the duration of payments is vital for supporting working families with newborns and young children and for New Zealand to catch up with the best international practice,” says Mr Lees-Galloway.
“New Zealand’s current paid parental leave entitlement of 18 weeks is one of the lowest in the OECD, with the average number of weeks of paid leave to mothers among OECD countries being 48 weeks.
“World Health Organisation guidelines stress the importance of the first six months for babies to breastfeed and bond with parents. The evidence is clear that these six months are crucial for infant development.
“Extending paid parental leave is one component of the Government’s Families Package, along with initiatives like the Best Start scheme and boosting the Working for Families payments. These will reduce child poverty and provide better support for New Zealand families.".
OECD information on the period after maternity leave for which a woman can be on parental leave with her job protected, disregarding payment conditions, shows that New Zealand was 19th in the OECD in 2016 (latest available data) out of 37 countries.